Transportation supporters ‘rally for roads’ amid highway bill debate

by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper

Construction workers and transportation supporters gathered in Washington Tuesday to urge Congress to pass a long-term funding bill for transportation projects in the U.S.

The event, which was led by a coalition of transportation lobbying group, was dubbed the “Rally for Roads.” It was attended by lawmakers such as House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) and Senate Environment and Public Workers Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Each told members of the crowd that was gathered on the National Mall in Washington that their support was vital to the chances of Congress passing a transportation bill this year.

“In the House it takes 218 votes,” Mica said during his remarks to the crowd of the prospects for a bill becoming law. “I’m telling you I’m short, but I need your help to get there.”

After Mica’s speech Tuesday, he told reporters it was likely the House would pass a short-term extension of highway funding instead of the Senate’s $109 billion version of the measure. That would mean another continuing resolution of legislation that expired in 2009, but Mica still implored the crowd to contact members of Congress about passing a long-term bill.

“Go to their offices. Wear your hard hats. Tell them that we need their votes,” Mica told the construction workers to say to their representatives.

Sen. Boxer, who has been critical of the House’s approach to the transportation measure, agreed the “Rally for Road” attendees were critical to the chances of any bill becoming law this year.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you helped Sen. (Jim) Inhofe and me so much during our battle to pass MAP-21 through the Senate, and I need your help one more time,” Boxer said in her own remarks to the crowd on the national mall.

“Will you give us your power and your energy to get a strong bipartisan transportation bill through the House,” she asked them. “One that reflects the strong belief that our 70,000 deficient bridges MUST be fixed, and fifty percent of our roads must be brought up to standard?”

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) delivered remarks to the crowd as well, telling attendees at the rally that there was “nothing Congress could do that would better put Americans back to work” than pass a new transportation bill.

DeFazio made the case for the House accepting the version of the measure that was approved last week by the Senate with 74 votes.

“The best we can do today is take up the Senate bill,” he said, though he added quickly the caveat “it’s not great.”

Despite Mica’s pronouncement that a short-term highway bill extension was likely, organizers deemed the rally Tuesday a success.

“America’s transportation needs are too great, and its impact on the nation’s economic health and well-being are too substantial to delay passage of a surface transportation bill any longer,” National Ready Mixed Concrete Association rally spokeswoman Kerri Leininger said in a statement.

“Deficiencies in America’s surface transportation systems have cost households and businesses billions of dollars,” she continued. “Our livelihoods depend on America’s roads. The support for Rally for Roads from congressional and industry members highlights the importance of getting our nation’s infrastructure back on track.”

The rally was organized by the American Concrete Pavement Association; Associated Equipment Distributors; Association of Equipment Manufacturers; Associated General Contractors of America; American Highway Users Alliance; American Road & Transportation Builders Association; American Society of Civil Engineers; American Traffic Safety Services Association; Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute; National Ready Mixed Concrete Association; National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association; Portland Cement Association; International Safety Equipment Association; National Association of Manufacturers; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


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